Posts Tagged ‘Armed Forces’

Articles on Bristol’s Jewish Community

September 11, 2021

I found a couple of very interesting articles on Bristol’s Jewish community in Max Barnes’ Bristol A-Z: Fascinating Stories of Bristol through the ages, published by the Bristol Evening Post c. 1970. Bristol has had a Jewish community for centuries. There was a Jewish quarter in the city in the Middle Ages. Way back in the 90s a miqveh, a Jewish ritual bath, with the Hebrew inscription, ‘Zacklim’, ‘flowing’, was found on Jacob’s Wells’ Road. They were expelled by Edward I along with the rest of England’s Jews, but returned after Oliver Cromwell once again opened the doors to Jewish immigrants. They were certainly present in the 18th century, when one Bristolian, looking for a doctor, said that he had no objection to a Jewish doctor, provided he claimed to believe in Christianity. In the 1820s one outraged commenter complained that the city’s corporation included not just Anglicans, but also Protestant non-Conformists and even Jews! There was also a very imposing synagogue in Park Row. This had giant Hebrew characters over its entrance and seemed to be cut into the very rock of St. Michael’s Hill. I haven’t seen it recently, so I wonder whether it’s still around, or if it’s simply the case that more recent building work has covered up the Hebrew inscription.

The article ‘Jews’ in the book runs

The first Jews settled in a confined area between St John’s Gate and St. Gile’s Gate. As Jews they were banned from living inside the walled town itself.

Their sole business was money lending. Like Jews down through the ages they suffered a lot of persecution. Once their houses were pillaged and burned by a mob led by William Giffard, a man who had had many financial dealings with the Jews and in 1275 took this brutal course to destroy the records and clear his debts.

Another Jew who refused to pay heavy ransom money to King John was hauled off to Bristol castle.

The king’s torturers pulled out one of his molar teeth each day. He had lost seven teeth before he paid up.

I think it was the poor man’s daughter who persuaded him to pay the money before he lost all his teeth. I think money lending was the only trade Jews in this country could legally pursue. Giffard’s pogrom against them was, I think, part of a number of anti-Semitic attacks and riots led by members of the aristocracy. The real reason behind them was that aristocracy at the time was in debt to Jewish moneylenders, and this was their way of getting out of it.

There’s another article on the Jewish author, Israel Zangwill, who also apparently was educated in Bristol. I doubt many people have heard of him today except experts in modern Jewish literature, but from reading the article he seems to have been a powerful force in the development of modern Jewish literature. The article says

Novelist and playwright (1864-1926) went to school in Bristol.

He was the son of a Russian Jewish refugee who escaped from Russia in 1848 from a death sentence for a military offence. Zangwill was known as a richly gifted but outspoken humanist. He was a champion of unpopular causes. His novel “Children of the Ghetto” was dramatised in 1899 and played in Yiddish and English in New York.

Imperial Russia had a policy of conscripting Jews into the army. It was used as a method of forced conversion, with Jewish troopers singled out for bullying and beating. I suspect that Zangwill’s father may have not taken the abuse, hence the death sentence for some kind of military offence. More recent victims of such maltreatment in the Russian army included Seventh Day Adventists and Pentecostalist Christians under Communism. I can’t remember which one, but one of these sects was persecuted because they’re pacifists who reject military service. And the Pentecostalists were subjected to the persecution under the guise of all kinds of stupid conspiracy theories. They’re abstainers, refusing to touch tobacco and alcohol, and as a result tended to be wealthier than ordinary Russians. As a result, there was a story propagated that accused them of receiving money from the CIA through a ship that landed annually at a secret location. It’s the same kind of stupid, murderous rumour about treachery as the source of secret wealth that has been used against our Jewish brothers and sisters.

Bristol’s Jewish community seems to have had a fascinating history, and its monuments are part of the city’s rich architectural heritage.

And real persecution and conspiracy theories are wrong and dangerous, whether levelled against Jews, Christians, Muslims or anyone. They are not things to be cynically used to expel left-wing peeps and non-Zionist Jews from Labour.

Lobster on Islamophobia of Extreme Right-wing Pro-Israel Author David Rubin

September 10, 2021

Lobster have also published a very interesting review by John Newsinger, a historian at one of Bath’s universities, of the latest work by American right-winger David Rubin, ‘Confronting Radicals: What America Can Learn from Israel’. Rubin has published a number of works claiming that America and the West are under threat from Islam and the left. Rubin’s Jewish, but his books are aimed at the Christian right, arguing that America can only be saved if it returns to Biblical, Judaeo-Christian values and securely allies itself with Israel against Islam. Although Rubin’s Jewish, his books are addressed to right-wing Christians because American Jews overwhelmingly vote Democrat and despite the alliance between the right and Israel. Newsinger begins his review by discussing Rubin’s book, The Islamic Tsunami: Israel and America in the Age of Obama, which came with an endorsement from David Horovitz and notorious right-wing Christian preacher, Pat Robertson. It’s an all-out, shockingly vitriolic attack on Islam, which among other things, compares Mohammed to Hitler. But what I found really shocking is his recommendations for dealing with Islam in America. He wants an end to Islamic immigration, bans on certain forms of Islamic observance and limiting the size of Muslim families. Oh yes, and he wants an end to hate speech legislation. Newsinger writes

Rubin puts forward a plan for how to defeat this attempted Muslim takeover. Among his recommendations are an immediate ban on all Muslim immigration into the United States; encouraging Muslims already in the country to use birth control and to limit the size of their families; banning the call to prayer and Muslim dress; and the expulsion of ‘actively hostile Muslims’, a category that includes all those Muslims who do not embrace ‘Judeo-Christian’ values. He makes clear earlier in the book that he does not really believe that it is possible for any Muslim to become a genuine American. It is also vital to oppose hate speech legislation ‘which in practice will be used as a big brother technique to curtail the free speech of those who dare to speak out against Islamic ideology’. More generally, it is necessary to assert the values of ‘Judeo-Christian civilization’ throughout the education and legal systems, and a return to ultra-patriotism ‘based on the American biblical tradition and the religious
values promoted by the Founding Fathers’. The maintenance of a close partnership with Israel is also obviously essential. He even considers whether or not it would be a good thing if the United States actually took over Syria and Iran
. Would, he asks, ‘a little old-fashioned American
“colonialism” [ . . . .] be so terrible’? The answer is, of course, yes
.

This is terrifying stuff. Now I think he has point about hate speech legislation. It is being used to stop reasonable debate about race and immigration as well about the trans ideology and whether transwomen should be allowed into women’s spaces. And I think there are real problems within British and western Islam. There does seem to be a section of the Islamic community in Britain which has active hostility towards Christianity, Judaism and the secular values of the west, and which does regard western, non-Muslim women with contempt because of the sexual freedom they enjoy. But clearly, this does not mean all western Muslims. As for the restrictions he wishes to place on Islam in the west, this resembles the legislation passed by the Spanish crown during the Reconquista which finally culminated in the expulsion of the Moors by Ferdinand and Isabella. It also brought to mind some of the restrictions placed on Jews in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I think they were also subject to restrictions on marrying and having families. And obviously, there’s the shadow of the race laws the Nazis introduced against the Jews before the Introduction of the Holocaust.

It’s also worth quoting Newsinger’s comments on the way American Jews reject views like Rubin’s, and the reasons behind Rubin’s venomous denunciation of Barack Obama. Rubin seems to see the former president as some kind of closet Muslim or ally backing the nefarious schemes of Islam and the Left to bring down America:

Two points need to be made here. First, The Islamic Tsunami was not n any way targeted at American Jews. Its audience was the US Christian Right, i.e. white evangelical Christians. The overwhelming majority of American Jews actually voted for Obama, both in 2008 and in 2012. He got 78% of the Jewish vote in 2008 and 69% in 2012. Moreover, Hillary Clinton got 71% of the Jewish vote when she ran against Donald Trump in Indeed throughout Trump’s Presidency, of all religious groups, it was American Jews who gave Trump his lowest approval rating, and in
2020 they voted overwhelmingly for Joe Biden. The great majority of American Jews are Democrat in sympathy and completely reject the Israeli alliance with the Republican and Christian Right. And as for Obama being hostile to Israel, it is worth noting that his administration provided more military aid to Israel than any previous administration, and in 2016 ‘concluded a new ten-year agreement providing a total of $38 billion in military aid to Israel, which the White House described as “the largest single pledge of military assistance in U.S. history”’. Rubin’s quite outrageous assault on Obama was not motivated by his supposed hostility to Israel, but by his refusal to endorse the expansionist agenda pursued by Benjamin Netanyahu and the Zionist Right.

This bears out what has been said elsewhere that American Jews are turning away from Zionism, or at least the ultra-Zionism of Benjamin Netanyahu and his fellows. The largest Zionist organisation in America in terms of membership is Ted Hagee’s Christians United for Israel. It also sheds more light on the way the anti-Semitism witch-hunters specifically target Jews and Jewish critics of Israel.

Views like Rubin’s, with his endorsement of Islamophobic politicians like Gert Wilders are frightening. At the moment they’re fringe, but there is the possibility that if the ultra-Zionists gain strength, they will take America and the west down the route of real, jackbooted Fascism in their determination to stamp out the radical left and Islam.

See: https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster82/lob82-confronting-radicals.pdf

Cartoonist Kayfabe on the US Army’s Guide to Cartooning

September 7, 2021

Face front, true believers, as Stan ‘the Man’ Lee used to say at Marvel. Here’s a bit of fun I found on the Cartoonist Kayfabe channel on YouTube. In it, comics creators Ed Piskor and Jim Rugg look at a little curiosity from the past. Back in the middle of World War II, the US army produced a booklet intended to teach squaddies the basics of cartooning.

The booklet was part of a series of such manuals intended to teach basic craft skills to wounded and shell-shocked troopers when they were recovering in hospital. It was also to give them skills that would help them find a job when they were finally demobilised. These booklets weren’t long. They were deliberately made short enough so that a trooper could have one in a pocket or in his kit bag. Other manuals in the series included leatherwork, knot-making and carpentry.

Although short, the booklet does cover all the basics of cartooning, such as proportion, perspectives, drawing action, the need to observe the wrinkles in clothes and so on, including tips on drawing noses and ears. Unfortunately, it also contains a section on ‘racial symbols’ – basically drawing national stereotypes, which includes two racist caricatures. One of these is of a Jew, which is especially distasteful given the nature of the regimes the US and its allies were fighting at the time.

The booklet’s own artwork is very fine and is stylistically similar to many of the great comics’ artists who were emerging at the time. The two speculate whether it was done by Art Spiegelman, the creator of Maus, a metaphor about the Nazi persecution of the Jews, or Stan Lee. Although both were in the army at the time, both were actually occupied on other projects. In the case of Lee, it was working on pamphlets about the VD. The pair also note that the booklet doesn’t say anything about sequential storytelling. It’s intended to teach single panel cartooning, the type published in newspapers at the time and which was massively popular.

I’ve got a feeling it was US army course on cartooning that produced the great American SF novelist, Harry Harrison. I think he trained as a cartoonist and started working in comics and from there found his way into writing SF short stories and novels. Harrison is probably best known for his comic SF novel, The Stainless Steel Rat, about a reformed criminal, ‘Slippery’ Jim diGriz, who works for a galactic detective bureau staffed with similar ex-crims to catch the villains, tyrants, murderers and general menaces to society that the ordinary police can’t. One of his other novels is Bill the Galactic Hero, which is a satire on the army and militarism, as well as spoofing Asimov and some of the other leading SF authors of the time. It was written, along with a number of other novels by various SF writers, as a reply to Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and its glorification of war and the armed forces. In the book, the captains of the space navy aren’t the six-foot good-looking guys that appear in the films. Those are all actors. They’re members of the galactic aristocracy, and so are terribly inbred with low IQs. The aliens they are fighting against aren’t the aggressors as portrayed in the army’s propaganda, but are an otherwise peaceful race, the victims of human attack. When Bill finally meets one, who explains this to him shortly before it escapes, he asks it why they’re fighting them then. The alien replies that it doesn’t know, but ‘we think you like it’. When Bill is finally allowed some leave, he travels down to the nearest planet with a group of other squaddies. One of them is a man, who has had half of his face shot away and replaced with cybernetics. Another man wires himself into a saline drip that feeds him a mixture of alcohol and glucose so he can be flat out unconscious drunk for the duration. And at the end of the book Bill meets the Biblical Cain, here described as the first soldier, who gives him tips on how to be successful and survive as a squaddie.

Bill the Galactic Hero isn’t biting satire. It’s tone, like the Stainless Steel Rat, is largely light. But that doesn’t stop it making some very serious points about the lunacy of the armed forces and the hell of war amongst the jokes. I think it’s significant that Harrison had served in the war, while Heinlein was rejected as unfit for active service. It’s been said that the people who are least likely to start a war are those, who have actually fought in one.

And if Harrison did come into literature through the US’ army training on cartooning, there’s an irony in that it launched the career of one of SF’s great satirists of the military, along with just about everything else.

Afghanistan Withdrawal – the Conspiracy Theories Start

September 2, 2021

For some the catastrophic departure of the western armed forces from Afghanistan has been almost unimaginable. This is not surprising, as successive governments have been telling us for years that the Taliban had been successfully contained and victory was only a few months away. They find it particularly incomprehensible that the US and western armed forces were so unprepared for the Taliban’s reconquest of the country, that President Biden has left 73 military planes and $80 billion worth of kit behind in the scramble to get out. One of these is the mad right-wing YouTuber and internet radio host, Alex Belfield. In the video below, Belfield wonders if all that military equipment has been deliberately left behind to be taken and used by the Taliban, in order to provide the pretext for more wars. He sees this as part of an overall strategy by out governments to keep us afraid. One of these ruses has been, so he argues, the Coronavirus. He seems to follow here the line of some of the sceptics that Covid doesn’t present a real threat, but has just been used by the government in order to justify a totalitarian seizure of power through the lockdown.

Belfield’s been sceptical about the Coronavirus and the lockdown almost from the beginning. His argument is usually that the lockdown is doing more harm than good to the economy and to the health, mental and physical, of the British people. He’s right in that clearly people’s businesses and wellbeing is suffering, but is completely and utterly wrong about lifting the lockdown and letting the disease take its course and carry off whoever it may.

But I can’t say that his paranoia about the US leaving behind so much military equipment is unwarranted. The American and British public were miss-sold the wars in the Middle East. We were told we were freeing Afghanistan from a brutal theocratic tyranny and defending America and ourselves from future terrorist attacks. We weren’t. The troops were sent in to secure the country so that an oil pipeline could be built, one which Bush’s administration had been in talks with the Taliban to build. The Taliban had pulled out, and so the NeoCons were looking for an excuse to invade. This came along in the shape of 9/11.

Ditto Iraq. We were informed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and that he was in league with Osama bin Laden. He wasn’t. Hussein had led a largely secular regime, which was cordially hated by bin Laden and his Islamist fanatics. We were told that the invasion would liberate the Iraqi people from Hussein, who really was a tyrant. But the invasion wasn’t about granting a grateful Iraqi people democracy. It was about Aramco, the joint Saudi-American oil company seizing the country’s oil reserves and the western oil companies grabbing its oil industry. Other multinationals, such as Haliburton, which employed various members of Bush’s family and cabinet colleagues, seized its state industries. Meanwhile the country descended into sectarian violence and chaos, the secular state and the feminism it promoted vanished, and the private military contractors – read: mercenaries – hired as part of the peacekeeping forces ran amok with drug and prostitution rings. They also amused themselves by shooting ordinary Iraqis for sport.

It’s been said that America is a ‘warfare state’. That is, its military-industrial complex is so pervasive and powerful that its entire economy is geared to and depends on war. It was suggested years ago in one of the publications of the old Left Book Club, as I recall, that this is deliberate. American political ideology rejects Keynsianism, the economic doctrine that maintains that the state should interfere in the economy through welfare spending, public works and so on to stimulate it. American political culture, on the other hand, rejects this in favour of laissez-faire. But the American economy still needs government intervention, and the only way the American state can do this is through war and military spending. Hence the continual need to find new wars to fight. First it was the Cold War, then the War on Terror.

I tend to believe in ‘cock-up’ rather than conspiracy – that the world is the way it is because of the incompetence of the authorities, rather than that there is some overwhelming and all-pervasive conspiracy against us. This does not rule out the fact that real conspiracies by the intelligence agencies, big business and various covert political groups really do occur. My guess is that the armaments left behind in Afghanistan are there as a result of incompetence rather than a deliberate plot to produce more war and international instability for the benefit of the war profiteers.

But after the lies that have sustained two decades and more of war and occupation in the Middle East, it wouldn’t surprise me if this was true.

Is the Catastrophic Withdrawal in Afghanistan due to Failure of Intelligence Services

September 2, 2021

Mike has been casting his bleak and jaundiced eye over Dominic Raab’s testimony about the current debacle in Afghanistan, and has asked a very serious question: has Raab just told parliament and the British people that our intelligences services have been outwitted by a bunch of desert-dwelling bandits? That’s the conclusion that follows from Raab’s statement that the government was informed that the Taliban couldn’t take power this year. Mike writes

This will upset the racists and Islamophobes.

Foreign Secretary (by the skin of his teeth) Dominic Raab was interrogated on the fall of Afghanistan by Parliament’s Foreign Affairs committee yesterday (September 1) – and said information provided by the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) had told him the Taliban were unlikely to take control of Kabul at all in 2021, even after international forces including those from the UK had left.

Well, they got that badly wrong, didn’t they!

The JIC is a civil service body comprising senior officials in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Ministry of Defence and United Kingdom Armed Forces, Home Office, Department for International Development, HM Treasury and the Cabinet Office.

It oversees the work of the Secret Intelligence Service, the Security Service, GCHQ and Defence Intelligence.

Are we to take it from Raab that none of these organisations were intelligent enough to notice that there were real problems with the Afghan government and military that UK forces were leaving behind?

Is he really saying that the UK’s entire intelligence community was outsmarted by a gang of desert-dwelling bandits?

The plan was to leave Afghanistan defended by its own National Army – but we have discovered that this organisation was badly-trained (by organisations including the British Army, it seems) and riddled with corruption. Was Raab telling us that nobody knew?

After the United States broke the Doha Agreement’s May 1 deadline for leaving the country, the Taliban simply walked into Kabul and took over. Yes, This Writer is oversimplifying, but the amount of resistance provided by the Afghan National Army was minimal – and UK intelligence should have known.

Indeed, it is unbelievable that our intelligence agencies did not.

Still, there it is: Raab said the “central assessment” provided to ministers was that Afghan security was likely to suffer “steady deterioration” after US troops pulled out last month, but Kabul was “unlikely” to fall this year.

That assessment was wrong, and now we need to know who made it, what information they used to make it, and what information they ignored. Then we’ll need to see evidence of reforms to the JIC, to make it more intelligent.

If Raab is going to blame other government organisations for the incompetence we have seen over Afghanistan, then we need to see him make improvements – or we’ll face more humiliations, possibly involving large-scale loss of life, in the near future.

There’s a saying that goes ‘military intelligence is a contradiction in terms’. And sadly the argument that the current debacle in Afghanistan may have been caused by the incompetence of the British intelligence agencies will be all too familiar to readers of the parapolitics/ conspiracy magazine, Lobster. The mag was set up in mid-1980s on the premise that British intelligence, as well as those of the US and other western countries, was out of control and incompetent. This was based on the covert activities of the British state against the left, the disinformation campaign in Northern Ireland and the way decent politicians like Tony Benn and others were smeared as IRA supporters and sympathisers, and the way the same intelligence agencies have never been subject to official critical scrutiny for their subversion of domestic democracy and their failures. The reports compiled for Margaret Thatcher about the Middle East and elsewhere were so poor that the Leaderene never read them. I go the impression that they were also seriously unprepared for 9/11. After the end of the Cold War, it seems that Britain got rid of its Middle East experts and the security services instead decided that they were now going into corporate espionage.

The 7/7 bombings also caught the security services unawares. They stated that this was to due to failures on their part and asked for a massive increase in funding. This was automatically granted, but Blair’s administration did not ask how this money was going to be spent, what restructuring was needed or indeed exercise any real oversight over the security services. They simply accepted the intelligence agencies that parliamentary scrutiny could cause of breach of security and politely looked away and let them get on with doing whatever they wanted.

Not that the American intelligence agencies are necessarily any better. The CIA became notorious for its ‘health alteration squads’, or gangs of assassins. The Americans were also taken by surprise by the Islamic Revolution in Iran. The closest they got was a report by the CIA stating that the Ayatollah Khomeini would return to that ancient land to lead a Gandhi-like campaign of passive resistance. If only!

Unfortunately, it is only too plausible that the Taliban’s rapid seizure of power and our consequent scramble to leave is due to colossal errors by our intelligence services. Quite apart from the negligence and sheer incompetence of Boris and his wretched crew.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2021/09/02/did-raab-really-tell-us-the-uks-intelligence-agencies-were-outsmarted-by-arab-terrorists/

Corrbyn Was Right About Afghanistan

August 25, 2021

A few days ago Mike was pointing out that, in contrast to Starmer and his current attitude towards Afghanistan, there was one Labour politico who was consistently right. This was Jeremy Corbyn. Back in 2001 when Blair and Bush were considering invading, Jeremy Corbyn was elected to the steering committee of the Stop the War Coalition. He said there was considerable disquiet and opposition to the deployment of troops in Afghanistan and the bombing of Iraq. An invasion would cost thousands of lives and not solve anything.

Totally correct.

In 2010 he spoke against the war, saying

“The issue of Afghanistan goes on. The deaths continue, the soldiers continue to die, the war is clearly unwinnable,” Corbyn said.

“The expense in moral terms, financial terms and loss of life of Afghan people gets worse and worse.”

He spoke again against the war in Afghanistan in 2017 when he was leader of the Labour party.

The war in Afghanistan has failed. After 16 years of bloodshed and destruction, the Taliban are undefeated and terrorism is no less of a threat at home. In fact it has spread.

“The British Government should make clear to Donald Trump that his strategy of more bombing and a new troop surge will continue this failure, not obediently applaud his latest policy U-turn.”

In July 2021, last month, when Johnson announced that he was pulling British troops out of Afghanistan, Corbyn dared to question why we had ever invaded the country in the first place.

“This has to be a day of reflection. We have spent billions of pounds in the war in Afghanistan, 450 British troops have lost their lives, thousands of Americans and other troops have lost their lives, many, many thousands of Afghan people have lost their lives and many more have been forced to be refugees in exile all around the region as well as in western Europe.

“While Britain is withdrawing, surely we need to recognise that when we make hasty foreign policy decisions to go to war, the consequences go on for a very long time. In this case, it is now the 20th anniversary of such a decision.”

Now Mr Corbyn has said

 “We must learn the lessons of a two-decade war which cost nearly a quarter of a million lives and failed to achieve security for the Afghan people or prevent the spread of terrorism.

“The War on Terror and its architects’ reckless use of force to deal with complex political issues has had profound, uncountable, and unacceptable human costs – whether to British and allied servicement and women or to the civilian populations of Afghanistan, Iraq, and beyond.

“Invasions and occupations are not only wrong and violate the right to sovereignty, they also do not deliver viable and sustainable political settlements. We cannot allow ourselves to be led down such a disastrous road again.”

He recognises that some critics see a refusal to take action as a sign of weakness, and pre-empts them with the statement

 “Too often rejecting military intervention is conflated with taking no action at all. As well as resettling refugees, I will be making the case in Parliament this week for the UK to play its part in a robust diplomatic effort that engages regional powers to ensure stability.

“This will need to cover humanitarian support, a response to rising extreme poverty, respect for human and civil rights especially those of women and girls, and real self-determination for Afghanistan.”

Mike contrasts this with Starmer, who says that his thoughts are with the Afghans but is only concerned with rescuing British support staff, not giving sanctuary to Afghan refugees.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2021/08/22/one-person-has-been-consistently-right-about-uk-involvement-in-afghanistan-guess-who/

The British and American peoples have been lied to about Afghanistan and Iraq. They were told the invasions and occupations were all about liberating these nations from vicious tyrants. They were told that the Taliban and Saddam Hussein were responsible for 9/11. Well, the Taliban did provide a safe haven for bin Laden, but I heard that they protested that they had no idea what the thug was doing and actually offered to give him up. And Hussein had nothing to do with the attack.

Both invasions were really all about oil and demonstrating American military superiority. Bush and the Neo-Cons were waiting for an opportunity to invade Afghanistan so they could build an oil pipeline after talks with the Taliban about its construction had broken down. Iraq was invaded because Aramco, the joint American-Saudi oil company wanted the country’s oil industry and oil reserves. American multinationals like Haliburton, to whom Bush and various members of his wretched cabinet had close ties, also coveted Iraq’s state industries. The Neo-Cons also had fantasies of turning the country into a low tariff, free trade state, the establishment of which wrecked domestic Iraqi industries, creating a surge of bankruptcies and an unemployment rate of 60 per cent.

And the succeeding regimes have had serious flaws. Hamid Karzai’s regime in Afghanistan was massively corrupt, with officials buying their positions and government contracts and connections, and using them to extort bribes and money from Mr and Mrs Ordinary Afghan. Under Karzai, the production of opium actually increased. Iraq descended into sectarian violence and civil war, while the mercenary companies brought in as peacekeepers ran amok, setting up prostitution and drug rings. They also shot ordinary Iraqis for fun.

Mike has pointed out in the above article that while Corbyn has been spot on, Boris’ predictions are so off target that he could have taken them from a box of Christmas crackers. Actually, I’d say that probably reflects the value of some of the decision makers. You can wonder if our intelligence agencies actually have any understanding of the Middle East. The CIA didn’t see the Islamic Revolution coming, for example. When it did become clear that the Shah’s regime would be toppled, they predicted that the Ayatollah Khomeini would lead a peaceful movement like Gandhi.

If only.

As for Iraq, one of the Neo-Cons critics is a female Pentagon Colonel, Kathryn W. She’s a woman of the right, a traditional Conservative who believes America has no right to interfere in the affairs of others. She is particularly scathing about the massive ignorance of Bush and his advisors of the practical realities of the Middle East. Not only that, but they were hostile to and dismissed American military staff, like General Zilli, the head of the Pentagon’s Middle East sector, who actually did. Because officers like Zilli told the Smirking Chimp what he didn’t want to hear: that it wouldn’t work, and the occupations would last a long time.

Two million people marched against the Iraq invasion. That’s two million people who knew far better than the grinning warmonger Tony Blair. Bush and Blair were not only wrong, but wilfully ignorant and greedy. And Johnson is so stupid he’s a walking insult to the intelligence.

Only one person has been consistently right about Afghanistan and Iraq – the man the media has vilified and smeared as a Communist, Trotskyite and Anti-Semite: Jeremy Corbyn.

Right Now Stoking Up Fears of Afghan Refugees as Rapists and Child Molesters

August 25, 2021

The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan has, as we’re seeing daily, resulted in a mass of desperate people in fear of their lives struggling to flee the country. Many of them are people, who worked for the western powers and armed forces during the occupation of their country. These people are now faced with the possibility of execution as apostates and collaborators. Women are particularly threatened by the Taliban’s return to power. Just to show how brutal the Taliban are, I have heard reports of them cutting off the fingers of women who have dared to put on nail varnish. There’s also a clip on YouTube of a group of Talibs giggling at the question of whether they will allow women a place in their parliament. They find the idea of women politicians so outlandish that it is, to them, ridiculous. This bodes extremely badly for any Afghan, who wants something better for their country than a highly repressive, brutal theocracy, and women who wish to have freedoms and opportunities beyond the traditional constraints of Afghan society.

Britain has promised to take in 20,000 refugees. As they include people who have worked for us, and that they are in peril precisely because of what we have done to their country, we do have a responsibility to take them in.

But how are the anti-immigration right responding to this? From what I’ve seen, they’re presenting them as a possible violent threat to our women and children. The Lotus Eaters last week posted a video discussing child marriage in traditional Afghan society, now returning under the Taliban. They are going round the mosques asking for lists of unmarried girls over the age of 12 and forcibly marrying them to Talib fighters as ‘spoils of war’. There is also a noxious traditional practise in Afghan society of ‘boy play’ – the sexual abuse of underage boys. This includes dressing them up as women and having them dance for the amusement of their abusers. They also read out the reports of rapes, sexual assaults and murders of women committed by Afghans in the west, and warned that just because the refugees were out of Afghanistan won’t mean that they had left such exploitative and vicious sexual attitudes behind. History Debunked also put up a piece about the Islamic grooming gangs with the implication that we might experience more of this with further immigration from the Islamic world.

Now the Lotus Eaters are correct about paedophilia and the sexual abuse of boys in traditional Afghan society. There have been reports of it going back to the first years of the invasion. These have included descriptions of the disgust of our brave girls and boys at seeing this child abuse practised by their Afghan allies and being told not to interfere by their superiors. I don’t doubt that some Afghans will retain these attitudes if they move to the west. I can remember hearing from people, who had worked on an exhibition about the Mediterranean, who described how shocked they were at the continuing repressive attitude to women by some immigrant cultures in London. The simple law of numbers also says that with such a large number of Afghans trying to get into Britain, some of them may well be people, who shouldn’t.

But not all.

I don’t know about Afghans, but I’ve met a number of people from the country next door, Iran. Their White English wives loved them because they treated them like ladies, and they had the same attitude to child abuse as every other Brit, regardless of colour: they hated them as well as rapists. I’ve been told that in Iranian society, the boys of a particular neighbourhood are brought up to regard each other’s sisters as their own and to take care of their safety. This means that if someone comes into the neighbourhood and threatens a girl, all the boys will come out to give him a thrashing.

I also recall the response of the American-Afghan community a little while ago to a play put on by a member of California’s gay choir celebrating the Afghan dancing boys. While criticism from western commenters was muted – one critic stated that the play ‘went too far’ – the Afghans were far more direct. They said it glamorised a disgusting and degrading practice.

I therefore don’t think that admitting the Afghan refugees were result in a wave of rape and child abuse. The predictions that it will just seem to be more racism and anti-immigrant prejudice.

Musical Satire: Bush and Blair Sing ‘Gay Bar’

August 24, 2021

Tony Blair crawled out from under whatever rock he’s been hiding himself under recently to give the world the benefit of his informed opinion on the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. He wasn’t in favour. In fact, he described it as ‘imbecile’. Zelo Street has put up an excellent demolition of Blair’s arguments over at https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2021/08/tony-blair-imbecile-yourself.html

It is massively hypocritical of Blair to present any kind of criticism of the efforts of contemporary politicos, such as President Joe Biden, to deal with the mess in Afghanistan. It was Tory Tone who, with his best mate George Dubya Bush, was responsible for the invasion and the following 20 years of occupation and nation building. Which really wasn’t about liberating the Afghan people from a viciously repressive Islamist regime and creating a stable society based on democracy and human rights. Bush and his backers in the New American Century wanted an opportunity to invade Afghanistan so they could build an oil pipeline that was being blocked by the Taliban. Yes, they were justified in attacking Afghanistan in reprisal for harbouring Osama bin Laden and 9/11, but that wasn’t the reason for the continuing occupation.

Just as the liberation of the Iraqi people from the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein also wasn’t the real reason Dubya and Tone invaded that country. The real reason was to enable Aramco, the joint American-Saudia Arabian oil company to seize Iraq’s oil industry and reserves, and for Haliburton and other multinationals to get their grubby mitts on the country’s state enterprises. The result was the destruction of what had once been one of the Middle East’s most secular states into political and religious anarchy and violence. Two hundred thousand people have been killed due to the invasion, and a further million or more forced into exile as refugees. For many people, Blair and Bush are war criminals who should be prosecuted, not indulged and fawned over by the media. They sent our highly trained, courageous and patriotic young men and women to their deaths, and murdered and mutilated a million or more innocent Iraqis.

Well, to mark the return of Blair to the media, I’m putting up this highly satirical piece I found on YouTube. About the same time Bush and Blair decided to invade Iraq, the Electric Six had a hit with their song, ‘Gay Bar’. Someone with a wicked sense of humour and master of video editing took footage of a joint press conference by Bush and Blair, and edited it so that the two appear to be singing the Six’s ditty. This was at a time when the momentum for gay marriage was building. In America an increasing number of American states were legalising it, and Blair had passed laws providing for civil partnerships, an alternative form of marriage that was mainly intended to cover gay couples. But the song’s also relevant to their invasion of Iraq and the other wars, containing as it does the line: ‘Let’s start a war. Let’s start a nuclear war. In a gay bar, gay bar.’

Well, I don’t know of any bars, gay or otherwise, that have nuclear weapons, although some have a reputation for violence. But Bush and Blair certainly started wars, the consequences of which are still plaguing us.

And Blair has absolutely nothing to tell present politicians about ending the debacle he started.

Bristol MP Karin Smyth on her Support for Afghan Refugees

August 18, 2021

I got this email from my local MP, Karin Smyth, in which she states her support for the refugees seeking to flee Afghanistan. She is also harshly critical of Boris Johnson’s attitude towards them, and his decision to accept only 5,000 in the next year. She also states her support for the country’s women who worked for our forces, as well as the 70 female members of the Afghan parliament, and calls for the government to support and protect those, who wish to remain in the country.

“I am writing to update you with my views on the situation in Afghanistan and the response to date of the British government. There is a statement on my website here which addresses some of the wider issues, however in this e-mail I will focus on the needs of the those most at risk from the Taliban regime. 

In his shameful, arrogant and complacent speech to the House of Commons this morning Boris Johnson did confirm that around 20,000 Afghan refugees would be allowed to come to United Kingdom. Shockingly the Prime Minister revealed that only around 5,000 Afghans will be permitted to apply to settle here this year. This puts at risk hundreds of interpreters and support staff who help UK forces in the country, those working for non-governmental organisations and, particularly, those brave Afghan women who stepped forward to improve the governance of their country.
 
His failure in this crisis has been highlighted by MPs from all sides, including a very powerful contribution from Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour Party which you can watch here.
 
As my Labour colleague Harriet Harman mentioned in the debate, there are nearly 70 women in the Afghan Parliament, many of whom are determined not to leave the country and lose all the gains of the last twenty years. There are also women teachers, doctors and many other professionals at risk in Afghanistan for simply having worked. It is imperative that the UK government offers genuine support for those women.
 
The Prime Minister has so far utterly failed to provide the leadership required. He must expand the re-settlement scheme, removing the arbitrary cap, and make the application process fast and straight-forward. He must also work with our international partners regarding the immediate safety of those currently in Afghanistan and those who may remain in the longer term.

I hope that he will do so.”

So do I, but this is Priti Patel and Boris Johnson. If there’s anything immoral and evil they can do, rather than the right thing, they’ll do it. As much as I detest Starmer, he’s doing the right thing here, as is Harman.

And so is Karin Smyth, who I’m very glad is also adding her voice to this debate and her determination to save the lives of people who have worked for us.

The Squaddies Knew the Truth about Afghanistan, But the Politicos Wouldn’t Listen

August 17, 2021

There’s a headline in today’s Independent about a former soldier in Afghanistan, who states that when he was there, all the drill sergeants knew the reality but the politicians wouldn’t listen: https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/when-i-served-in-the-us-army-our-drill-sergeants-all-knew-the-truth-about-afghanistan-politicians-ignored-them/ar-AANnGJ6?ocid=msedgntp

I am honestly not surprised. It’s a truism in the army that it’s run by the NCOs, who have a better idea of what’s going on than the officers. But one of the major complaints about George Dubya Bush and the neo-Cons was that they had little real knowledge or experience of the Middle East, its politics, culture and peoples. Their views of the region were based almost wholly in their political ideology. As a result, they had little real idea about it. Worse, they bitterly resented those who did. One of the leading voices against the neo-Cons was a female Pentagon colonel, who was a traditional Conservative. She was opposed to them because they didn’t know anything about the Middle East and the reality of fighting wars there, did not share the team ethos of the American armed forces and silenced and sacked the senior staff who knew better than them, who tried to put them right. Bush and co were ‘chickenhawks’ – largely draft-dodgers, who had avoided service in Vietnam, but were now all too keen to send other, braver men and women to fight and die in foreign fields. This senior Pentagon officer – I’m sorry, but I’ve forgotten her name, as it’s been a long time since I read her piece – also stated that the army is very keen that its squaddies do team sports. It’s all about team work in which everyone gets criticised if they make mistakes, no matter their rank or importance. But the neo-Cons were too precious for that, and didn’t accept criticism of their policies and plans. And they hated the senior, professional military staff who had real knowledge and experience of the area. Bush and his crew sacked General Zilli, the head of the section of the American army dealing with the Middle East, because he told them they were wrong.

The squaddies knew what a fiasco the occupation was. Their senior officers also knew and tried to get it through the thick skulls of Dubya and the rest of his gang. They failed, and the result has been twenty years of war culminating in the Taliban once again seizing power in Afghanistan. Not to mention the chaos and carnage in Iraq.

Blair lied, people died.

Labour left-wingers have warned that the same people, who started these wars and occupations, are trying to come back. They’d like a few more, all for the benefit of big business and the oil industry.

This has been a catastrophe. They must be stopped, and no-one should ever listen again to anything Blair or Bush says about the Middle East. They’re ignorant and greedy, and have cost hundreds of thousands of people their lives, wrecked whole countries and made the whole region even more unstable. And ultimately it’s all been for nothing.

Blairism is a failure. It has failed in the Middle East, and Thatcherism at home, including Blair’s version, has just made poverty worse. Blair’s heir, Starmer, is offering more of the same.

Ignore the right. Get Starmer out, and a proper Labour leader with real insight, knowledge and concern for human rights, international law and improving the lives of the working class in.